Smart Start 2.0
Part two in our meet the Smart Start participants.
Twenty-one entrepreneurs representing 17 businesses are busy working their way through the 2016 SMARTstart program.
The program provides passionate, budding entrepreneurs with online business skills training, in-person workshops and mentorship. Connecting the entrepreneurs with a local mentor is one of the most important aspects of the program.
This year’s participants have already completed a draft of a business, feasibility or strategic plan. By the program end in October, that plan – along with pro forma financial statements – will be complete, providing the entrepreneurs with a solid foundation from which to launch or expand their business.
Learn more at smartstartbusiness.ca
Jennifer Benner, Mentor
Business: Benner Database Designs
Years in business: 7
Growing up I wanted to be: Writer
My first year in business: I really struggled with evaluating my time properly – both in management and in value.
Best advice you ever got: Know your numbers. A clear understanding of cash flow and resource requirements are your best indicators.
Proudest achievement: Chairing the 2016 Mayor’s Night of the Arts Event
What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Google Docs, Dropbox and OverDrive
I define success as: Being able to learn from my mistakes so that I am constantly improving.
I am paired with: Beckie Lower (BL Fitness Coaching)
Beckie Lower, Entreprenuer
Business name or business idea: BL Fitness Coaching
Years in business: 6 months
Dream/goal for your business: To become a full-time personal trainer and open a gym
What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: Creating a dynamic business plan that allows me to build a strong business. I also want to build on the strengths I have to make me a strong entrepreneur.
My biggest obstacle: Business planning and accounting
Why I am an entrepreneur: I have a passion for success, I am able to create the dynamic future to nurture my commitment to helping others through fitness.
I start each day with: My positive affirmations and hugs from my children.
Kari Lines, Mentor
Business: Budget Blinds of Airdrie
Years in business: 8
Growing up I wanted to be: Airline pilot
My first year in business: I learned a lot.
Best advice you ever got: Don’t take things too personally, and keep negativity out of your life.
Proudest achievement: In 2015 we were the No. 1 franchise in Canada out of more than 100 locations.
What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Lots of paperwork! And my calendar
I define success as: Running a responsible, profitable,and ethical business that is not dependent on me being there every day.
I am paired with: Shannon Marier (Koko FitClub)
Shannon Marier, Entreprenuer
Business name or business idea: Koko FitClub
Years in business: N/A
Dream/goal for your business: Five clubs in five years
What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: I hope to minimize first-time business owner mistakes by learning from the mistakes of my mentor. Gaining more knowledge about marketing and social media will help increase brand awareness. Support from Kari Lines of Budget Blinds with human resources will be invaluable help in hiring our new staff.
My biggest obstacle: A true entrepreneur is an innovator. When I come up against a perceived obstacle, I find a way.
Why I am an entrepreneur: I feel compelled to provide personal assistance to help others make good decisions. Being an entrepreneur enables me to have the independence and freedom to continually grow and challenge myself. Through sharing my vision, I inspire the lives of others.
I start each day with: Gratitude.
Danielle Coulter, Mentor
Business: Tutor Doctor
Years in business: 6
Growing up I wanted to: Work in a lab or on a construction site
My first year in business: I nearly paid off my business loan, but worked 18 hours a day, seven days a week as a Jack of all trades
Best advice you ever got: Reach out and ask for help. No need to reinvent the wheel! Most folks love to share their tools and ideas.
Proudest achievement: Winning our company’s sales award (President Circle) three years in a row
What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Lots of photos and travel itineraries
I define success as: Being able to go on a holiday again!
I am paired with: Karine Ruiz and Christelle Hitimana Uwamahoro (Meals Made Easy)
Karine Ruiz, Entreprenuer
Business name or business idea: Meals Made Easy
Years in business: 8 months
Dream/goal for your business: A storefront!
What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: What we need to get a loan for a storefront, marketing/branding, organize/budget financials, when to go to wholesalers and who to contact, making our website user-friendly.
My biggest obstacle: Money
Why I am an entrepreneur: I love to be my own boss, love dealing with people, love being creative and thinking outside the box. Motivated by challenges and not scared to take risks. Also, I want to provide a service that will impact people’s lives in a positive way. The satisfaction of knowing that you can make an idea a business and make it succeed is exciting and scary all at the same time!
I start each day with: Checking my messages, shower and inspirational music, prayers.
Christelle Hitimana Uwamahoro, Entreprenuer
Business name or business idea: Meal Made Easy
Years in business: 8 months
What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: Marketing skills and business management: cash flow and human resources, decision-making and their impact on the business, sales and customer relationships
My biggest obstacle: Money is the obstacle that is stopping us from having a storefront.
Why I am an entrepreneur: I realized I have a flair for good opportunities. I’m able to start from a simple idea and make it bigger. I have the passion to talk with people about all topics and to select ideas that I can use in different ways. I believe that an entrepreneur never stops learning or considering themselves self-sufficient. An entrepreneur has to be open-minded because business is not a straight line, business is an adventure and you need to be flexible to be able to keep up and enjoy what you do.
I start each day with: A prayer to thank God for another day.
Brent Swain, Mentor
Business: Innovative Marketing Solutions
Years in business: 35
Growing up I wanted to be: Fighter pilot
My first year in business: I was hired by Imperial Oil, given an office and created my own job in the marketing department.
Best advice you ever got: Listen more, talk less, be straightforward
Proudest achievement: Developing and facilitating my own sales and management training course
What’s on your desk/laptop right now: Numerous programs used to aid companies in marketing
I define success as: Enjoying what you do.
I am paired with: Lorne Osborne (Provision Athletics)
Lorne Osborne, Entreprenuer
Business name or business idea: Provision Athletics
Years in business: 3
Dream/goal for your business: To have a million users and over 1,000 clients
What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: How to create and execute my long-term plan; marketing and to get business help in the form of mentorship
My biggest obstacle: Marketing and letting people know about our program
Why I am an entrepreneur: Love being able to make changes, set my own schedule and have the ability to create my own life; being able to help people worldwide.
I start each day with: Breakfast and a workout.
Mentor: Gary Armstrong
Business: Empowered Employee Education
Years in business: 9
Growing up I wanted to be: Police officer
My first year in business: I discovered that sometimes it is best to hire an expert.
Best advice you ever got: It’s called ‘show business’ for a reason. The show is only half of it.
Proudest achievement: My family
What’s on your desk/laptop right now: An introduction to business course I am developing
I define success as: Casting my own shadow.
I am paired with: Michelle Carre (U Weight Loss)
Michelle Carre, Entreprenuer
Business name or business idea: U Weight Loss
Years in business: 1.5
Dream/goal for your business: I want to be the go-to place for health and wellness for our clients and all Airdrians.
What I hope to learn in SMARTstart: I hope to gain new perspectives and new knowledge. I want to talk through ideas and have a method for testing them out to see if they are a fit. I want to develop a plan for the future that aligns with who I am and what I’m good at.
My biggest obstacle: Knowing where I stand with my current agreements and where I have movement
Why I am an entrepreneur: I love business and leadership and being a business owner allows you to do both of those things. I love the fact that I get to be a Jack of all trades being involved in the various aspects of running a business, from strategic planning to branding and marketing to finances. As the business grows you can put people in position to do some of those jobs (probably better than you) while you focus on the things you do best.
I start each day with: Getting the kids off to school and usually a meditation.